THE END OF THE LINE

This riveting debut opens with seventh-grader Robbie Thompson locked in solitary confinement at Great Oaks School (or Prison, as Robbie refers to it), where he’s forced to meet required behavioral expectations to gain even basic needs. Readers soon learn that he’s been placed at the “end of the line” after violent outbursts at four other alternative schools—and that he killed his friend Ryan. Short, quick-paced chapters, some only one page long, alternate between Robbie’s time in school/prison and past events that led up to Ryan’s death. There are no black-and-white issues here; Ryan is not a likable kid. After Robbie, a respectful and diligent son and student whose favorite pastime is building a model town with his Uncle Grant, stands up to the bullying Ryan receives on his first day in their sixth grade, Ryan ingratiates himself with Robbie’s family. While Robbie’s parents see an impoverished boy who lives with his elderly grandparents, Robbie realizes that Ryan is evasive, manipulative and a liar. Adding to his growing hatred is a (little overblown) tyrant of a teacher who wrongfully casts Robbie as the troublemaker of the class. A demanding Great Oaks leader, group therapy with teens years ahead of him and analogies to Uncle Grant’s difficult choices as a soldier in Iraq help Robbie find responsibility and acceptance. A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2287-6

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the...

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING

An eleventh-grade girl wants to start a relationship but is stymied by depression and anxiety.

Syd knows her depression isn’t really out of control, like some people’s. She can usually manage the crushing fog that weighs her down: tricking herself into getting out of bed by playing the phone game; biking around Vancouver, British Columbia, until she’s exhausted; investing online with her cantankerous grandfather; eating just enough to get by. It works well enough until her lab partner, Paul, starts texting and flirting. Syd would respond in kind if she could, but she’s afraid to make eye contact or have conversations with new people—how could she possibly start a relationship? Fading into the background would be ideal, but her gregarious family has other plans. Her mother, revitalizing the family Passover celebration, ropes Syd into embarrassing Jewish singalongs. Worse, Syd’s vivacious sister wants to perform The Vagina Monologues for the school drama festival, and she’s written her own monologue—one that uses “the c-word”! The oozing darkness that dominates Syd’s thoughts is authentically represented in her present-tense narration and appropriately addressed with professional mental health treatment. Frustratingly, however, Syd’s nervousness about romantic and sexual intimacy is pathologized as a curable symptom of her mental illness.

An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the flavor for a tale of recovery and empowerment . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1184-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death...

THE EDGE OF FALLING

Wealthy high school junior Mcalister “Caggie” Caulfield seeks relief from grief over her younger sister’s death by entering into a dangerous relationship with a mysterious boy.

After her little sister drowns in the pool at her family’s beach house in the Hamptons, Caggie wants to die too, to the point that she contemplates jumping off the roof at a friend’s party in Manhattan. A schoolmate named Kristen saves her at the last minute but nearly falls herself. Caggie actually ends up pulling Kristen back and is credited as a hero, which only makes her feel worse. In her grief, Caggie spurns the attentions of her best friend and devoted boyfriend, but she finds a kindred spirit in Astor, a tall, dark and damaged new boy at school who recently lost his mother to cancer. But what Caggie comes to realize about her relationship with Astor is that “[d]arkness stacked on darkness just makes it that much harder to find the light.” After another nearly fatal disaster with Astor at the beach house, Caggie is forced to confront the falsehoods she has told her family and friends and let go of her guilt over her sister’s death. Though Caggie makes a point of telling readers that her paternal grandfather called people like her “phony,” almost nothing is made of the connection to Catcher in the Rye, and it serves merely to make Caggie’s tale suffer by comparison.

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death and lies. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3316-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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